From First- to Fourth-Year: How Oberlin Influences Personal Style

When I first arrived at Oberlin in the gloomy fall of 2018, I had little to no style. I didn’t know at the time, though it should come as no surprise, that my staple wardrobe of an oversized, beige windbreaker; black leggings; and Air Force 1s did not cut it for Oberlin’s curated blend of styles mostly consisting of vintage throwbacks to the ’90s. Tasked with the challenge of defining my personal style for the first time, I found myself surrounded by the perfect canvas. Since that fall, I’ve been constantly inspired by the fashion of Oberlin students and have sought insight into how their styles came to fruition.

When I talked to College fourth- year Izzy Halloran, she said the greatest change in her style has come from gaining confidence and learning how to pick clothes she feels best in. Speaking on some of the bolder choices she made during her first year, Halloran mentioned that she tries to not be too critical of her past self, a lesson on self-compassion for fashion we would all do well to learn.

“I’d like to think I wore my most embarrassing ’fits in high school, but I definitely took some unfortunate fashion chances my freshman year — specifically, the very oversized denim jacket with pins on the pockets, which I have since retired,” she said. “I really came into my own [second] year at Oberlin. My [first] year I experimented with style and began to understand what I liked to wear.”

In addition to developing her style choices, Halloran has also had to account for ways in which her body has changed in the last four years.

“Something I think we don’t talk about enough is second puberty, which I underwent after we were sent home two years ago,” she said. “Strangely, I have grown a few inches, my chest grew, and my hips filled out.”

College fourth-year Luke Sprecher, on the other hand, only recently began to experiment with his personal style.

“I never thought of myself as having bad style; I just wasn’t so concerned about the way I dressed,” he said. “It started with needing a new winter jacket, but quickly turned into an opportunity to really think about what I liked in terms of style for maybe the first time. My wardrobe is a lot of basic staples, but I’ve grown to really enjoy adding to it.”

Recent additions to Sprecher’s wardrobe include antique, brown Blundstones; bright orange, alpaca wool mittens; and, of course, a new winter jacket. Sprecher cited Huckberry as his go-to source for fashion and accessories.

Oberlin students naturally encourage each other to express themselves through style and acknowledge how the growth we experience as people throughout college is often reflected in our clothes. This culture has allowed people to explore their style in individual and unique ways, creating a more open conversation about fashion and self-expression.